Editorial: London bombings fuel state terror

On 7 July 2005, more than 50 people were killed and hundreds injured by bombs planted on a bus and three underground trains in London during the morning rush-hour. The first attacks were followed, two weeks later, by four more attempted bombings of the transport system. It is clear that more may follow. The 7 July bombs were indiscriminate, killing London commuters from a wide range of backgrounds and origins. For the victims, their families and friends, these outrages are profoundly tragic. For the world, the London bombings have contributed to a wider tragedy.

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Editorial: Don’t give in to government terror!

On 22 March the House of Lords finally gave in to the government and allowed through the latest Terrorism Bill (Labour’s fifth since coming to power in 1997), which will now become law. In the sixth round of a debate, centred in the main on the clauses that outlaw ‘glorification of terrorism’ and which has bounced between the Commons and Lords since last August, peers accepted the government plans by a majority of 112.

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Privatising punishment

I believe people sentenced by the state to imprisonment should be deprived of their liberty and kept under lock and key by those accountable primarily and solely to the state.Labour Party Shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair, 1993

Labour will take back private prisons into public ownership – it is the only safe way forward.
John Prescott 1994

Within a week of being elected in 1997, Home Secretary Jack Straw reversed Labour’s pre-election position and announced that all new prisons would now be privately built and run. Since then punishment has become big business. In September 2008 the press announced that the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO), a charity supposedly committed to campaigning for less use of imprisonment, had joined a consortium bidding to run two new prisons. Nicki Jameson reports.

During the 1980s right-wing think-tank the Adam Smith Institute had recommended to the Conservative government that it follow the example of the US, which was beginning to use private contractors to manage prisons. The Tories duly began experimenting with privatisation and by the time Labour took power four prisons and three immigration detention centres were being privately run.

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Justice for Binyam Mohamed

Guantanamo: Justice for Binyam Mohamed

On 30 October 2008 it was announced that British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had officially asked Attorney General Baroness Scotland to investigate ‘possible wrongdoing’ by the CIA and M15 in the case of Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, a British resident. On the same day, in a separate development, the US administration was finally forced to hand over to Mohamed’s lawyers the full defence evidence they have been demanding since May. Both events represent significant achievements in Mohamed’s long campaign for justice in the face of desperate attempts by both the British and US governments to hide evidence of their involvement in Mohamed’s extraordinary rendition and torture (see FRFI 205).

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Government tightens legislative noose on foreign prisoners

On 1 August 2008 the section of the UK Borders Act 2007 which provides for ‘automatic deportation’ of ‘foreign criminals’ came into force and more legislation against foreign national prisoners is in the pipeline. These measures were introduced by the Labour government following the Tory and press outcry in April-May 2006 over the release of foreign national prisoners which led to the resignation of Home Secretary Charles Clarke. Nicki Jameson reports.

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Crisis at the Metropolitan Police: £300,000+ handshakes all round

Two senior police officers in the Metropolitan Police have departed their jobs in the middle of what everyone agrees is a crisis for policing in London. The Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, resigned before his contract ended claiming that Boris Johnson, the popinjay, old Etonian, Tory London mayor, had driven him out. Resignation or not, Sir Ian pocketed a large pay-off from taxpayers’ money on top of his pension. Britain’s top Asian policeman, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who sidled off a few days before Sir Ian clutching a fat cheque of his own, left having withdrawn a claim against his former boss for racism, promising to say no more.

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Inside News / FRFI 207 Feb / Mar 2009

Ronnie Easterbrook
On 22 January FRFI supporters joined Brighton ABC and the Friends of Ronnie Easterbrook outside the Ministry of Justice in London to show our solidarity with Ronnie, who, as we go to press is entering the sixth week of a hunger-strike.

Ronnie was sentenced to life for armed robbery and attempted murder in 1988 after a failed robbery on a supermarket wages van. A police informant set the job up and Ronnie and two others were ambushed by PT17, the elite tactical firearms unit. Tony Ash was shot dead, despite surrendering, and Ronnie, Gary Wilson and a police inspector all suffered gunshot wounds. Also lying in wait was a Thames TV crew, who captured the shoot-out on film.

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Prisoners’ rights under attack

Since Labour came to power in 1997 the prison population of England and Wales has increased from 61,000 to 81,748. The government has created more than 3,000 new criminal offences and totally changed the sentencing framework so that an unprecedented number of prisoners are serving indeterminate sentences. Britain has more life-sentenced prisoners than Germany, France, Russia and Turkey put together. The prison system is full to bursting and conditions are worsening. Prisoners have few legal tools with which to defend themselves but have at times been able to bring successful court actions against the prison system’s worst excesses. Labour’s Justice Minister Jack Straw and the Prison Officers’ Association want to stop them doing this. Nicki Jameson reports.

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Licence to kill: Landmarks in the development of police powers to kill and get away with it

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

jcdm mural

The new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson was appointed on 28 January promising to ‘convince all the communities of London that the Met is on their side’. His appointment followed the resignation of Sir Ian Blair in November 2008, who left under several looming clouds, not least the imminent verdict of the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest; allegations of racism from senior Asian police colleagues and a boycott by the Metropolitan Black Police Association; and an investigation into personal corruption.

The open verdict in the De Menezes inquest, which ended in December, proved to be the indictment of policing that Sir Ian Blair had feared. The jury were prevented from bringing a verdict of unlawful killing by a ruling of the coroner, but went as far as they could to point to the culpability of the police. The De Menezes family welcomed the verdict as at least some recognition of the circumstances of their son’s killing in Stockwell on 22 July 2005. But the family did not receive justice and they stand in a long line of families who have been on the receiving end of the development of police tactics to deal with political opponents, tactics which include murder and brutality.

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Law and order

PAY Ian Bashford

It is no surprise that ever since Tony Blair uttered his soundbite ‘Tough on Crime; Tough on the Causes of Crime’ the Tories and Labour have competed bitterly to be the ‘toughest’. They are, after all, competing to win the support of the same narrow-minded. Self-interested section of the middle class in this election. But that is not all. Whichever party runs the State after this election will be keenly interested in ‘tooling up’; equipping itself with all the powers necessary to whip the working class and its supporters into line.

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